Justices cite infirmities in Cybercrime law
MANILA, Philippines - In a sign of what action the Supreme Court may take on the Cybercrime Prevention Act, several justices agreed with those opposed to the law that some of the its provisions are infirm.
The high court held oral arguments on the constitutionality of the law on Tuesday. While petitioners and respondents argued their respective cases, the oral arguments also gave a peek into the justices’ insights.
Senior magistrates agreed with petitioners on several points, but two appointees of President Benigno Aquino III - Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justice Marvic Leonen – raised issues in support of the Cybercrime law.
Senior Justice Antonio Carpio twitted the penalties imposed on online libel and cybercrimes that are higher than those provided in the Revised Penal Code.
“There's nothing in this law that requires computer to be online before the crime is committed. Everybody now uses computer to type a news report so practically all libel crimes now are cybercrimes because nobody uses a typewriter anymore,” Carpio said.
Justice Diosdado Peralta also agreed, noting that section 7 of the law is “clearly infirm.” Section 7 states that “A prosecution under this Act shall be without prejudice to any liability for violation of any provision of the Revised Penal Code.” This includes libel.
“There is really something wrong here,” Peralta agreed when Bayan Muna Rep. and lawyer Neri Colminares noted that the provision violates the right against double jeopardy.
Justice Teresita Leonardo De Castro, meanwhile, criticized Section 19. This provision states: “When a computer data is prima facie found to be in violation of the provisions of this Act, the DOJ shall issue an order to restrict or block access to such computer data.”
“How do we start determining prima facie evidence? Does that mean law enforcement agents can now snoop around?” she asked.
She also noted: “Is there any way for the ordinary citizen to know they’re only collecting traffic data and not content data?”
Aquino’s appointees, however, noted the need to regulate Internet usage.
Leonen cited the case of Chris Lao, who was bullied via the Internet. “Is it not the right of government to come in and remove the megaphone from individuals who are careless? Is there not a state interest in coming in [in order that] to chill them from destroying others?” he said.
Sereno agreed: “The Internet has allowed the citizens to cross the line.” She also expressed concern for those who commit suicide after being victims of cyberbullying.
The oral arguments ended after four hours on Tuesday. These will continue on February 22.
The petitioners also asked for an extension of the temporary restraining order issued earlier by the court, which would end February 6.